Blood on the Tracks is a new podcast about legendary music producer Phil Spector in the murder of Lana Clarkson. This podcast is hosted by me, Jake Brenin, creator and host of the award winning music and true crime podcast disc Graceland. Season one features 10 episodes and launches August 12, 2020, just like Phil Spector. This podcast sounds like nothing you've heard before because you can't push the needle into the red without leaving a little blood on the tracks. Blood on the Tracks contains adult content and explicit language.
Listen to Blood on the Tracks and the Ihara Radio Out Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Hi, this is Leah Remini and Mike Rinder, and we are very excited to announce that we are finally doing a podcast. Yes, and the name is Scientology. Fair game, everybody. Scientology, fair game. And thank you to all of you, because we tweeted out, like, should we do a podcast, whatever, with overwhelming. Yes, amazing response.
Listen to Scientology Fair Game on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. Hey, everybody.
I don't know if you've heard, but we have a book coming out finally. Finally, after all these years. It's great. It's fun. You're going to love it. It's called stuff you should know. Colen an incomplete compendium of mostly interesting things. Yep. And it's 26 jam packed chapters that we wrote with another guy named Nils Parker, who's amazing and is illustrated amazingly by our illustrator, Carly Manado. And it's just an all around joy to pick up and read, even though we haven't physically held her hand.
Yeah, it's like we have Chuck in our dreams so far. I can't wait to actually see and hold this thing and smell it, and so should you.
So preorder now it means a lot to us. The support is a very big deal. So preorder anywhere. Books are sold. Welcome to Step, you should know a production of NPR Radio's HowStuffWorks. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark, and there's Charles W. Chuck Brian over there and there's Jerry there figuring out the new contrivances of modern life. Yeah, I mean, we should tell people what's going on. I think it's interesting, right?
No. Well, I'm going to tell them fine.
So Jerry has figured out now how to operate the studio Macintosh recording system.
Sure. And not be in the office.
It's pretty great. It's it's covid Refik, actually.
And so she was just up on our Skype on video and she's still there. But when she switched it to mute, it went to that distressing picture. Do you see that thing?
No, I just PJR like the letter J in the letter R..
Oh, see, there she is. She's back. Okay.
When she turned it off, there was I get a photograph of Jerry that looks like she's like sick in bed or something. It's weird.
This is a well, it's just Jerry's look. Maybe so I don't know. That's that's a diet of nothing. But Misso for 15, 20 years will do for you.
The weirdest thing is this is the closest we've come to normal in four months.
I know not only is it like normal, it's almost like a throwback. Remember when we had the studio where we would look out the window and she was there? Yeah. Yeah, that was great. That's kind of like this. Again, she was a window creber.
Professionally and in her personal life, too. That's right. So this is stuff you should know everybody. I don't know if I said it. There are probably a few people who are confused and aren't anymore, but we haven't gotten started yet. So prepare to be confused again when we explain something in particular. Chuck, miniature golf.
I got to ask, are you a fan? This made me want to play again, like I grew up playing putt putt, sure. And have very fond memories of all the different colored golf balls, you know, like the water trap that was really just this stagnant little puddle of concrete. You know, Poppo is wonderful and great. And there were arcades and birthday parties there that featured heavily with G.I. Joe, action figures and stuff like that. The good kind, the three and three quarter inch ones.
Mm hmm. And yeah, I am a fan, if not just nostalgically in general. Yes.
And which style and as you as a listener will see soon, there are a couple of different things. But did you grow up playing just sort of the bare bones putt putt or the more miniature golf clown's mouth windmill volcano?
Well, Chuck, if you ask me if I had a rich childhood, I will always tell you. Yes, sir. Yes, I did. And the reason why is because I grew up having putt putt close by in Toledo and we played that a lot. And then when my family would vacation in the summers on Catawba Island on Lake Erie, and this is like pre cleaned up Lake Erie, there was a like a rundown little like mini golf with like clowns, ballsed and windmills and all that stuff right by the place where we used to stay like walking distance.
And so we'd play there a lot, too. So I had the best of both worlds, a really great, just top notch childhood.
So I grew up playing putt putt at Stone Mountain Park, which we went to a lot because it was near our church in the youth group would go and do putt putt nights and stuff.
So that was a lot of fun and I was sort of partial to those that were like, you know, the real putt putt where it requires a little bit of skill.
But I am also a sucker for the beach town. Uh, volcano. Waterfall, Go-Kart. Bumper boat. Arcade scene. Yeah, don't forget laser tag. I never really did laser tag. I think that came around a little after I was, you know, in my prime years for this kind of thing.
Yeah, it wasn't it. Same here, but I was looking up. Now they have the laser tag it places. But I still love those go carts, man.
When we go to Alabam last year, I found a place nearby and it's like we got to go. And everyone was like, oh, I don't know. And the kids are sort of like, yeah, I guess I'll do it.
And I was like, okay, so we got to go right. Like, what is wrong with all of you? Who are you vacationing with, Chuck. Oh man.
It was so much a carbon monoxide leak at the house. You right now those go carts. I could do that all day long.
Yeah, for sure. And of course, I got the guy, you know, the teenager, squeaky voice teenager. And I said, hey, man, which one which which is the first one. York number eight. Really. Oh yeah. And sure enough it was really fast.
You just ran circles around everybody. I did. Such that I even laid off on the gas a little bit just to catch up and let people, you know, act like they outrace what a sportsman. Oh, goodness. Well, we'll talk about go karts one day, more in depth. But today we're just going to focus on the miniature golf, OK?
Yeah, this is a pretty interesting history, I think. Yeah.
I had no idea how far back it went until we started researching this. And actually, it goes all the way back to the nineteenth century. And this is one of those rare things that's been around a while. But you can actually pinpoint like the first one in the first miniature golf course in the world, as far as anybody knows, is that St. Andrews, it's the ladies putting club of St. Andrews, and it was built in 1867 strictly for the women members of the Ladies Pudding Club.
Yeah, there's a couple of things at play here, actually. Really just one thing which is not letting women do things.
Yeah, because there was a decree basically that women shall not take the club back past their shoulder. So the commandment.
Yeah, like a real golf swing, in other words, was I guess improper for for a lady to do the Victorian era was just so stupid when it came to social constraints.
I'm trying to figure out why does that. I don't know, risky, I would guess. Well, I just wonder why a full golf swing, would it make their their dress rate rise a little above the ankle or like this?
Why? I think also women were expected to not overexert themselves physically, especially in public to. Right. Could kind of construe that as overexertion.
Well, and then there's this, which is from an 1890 book by Scottish baron Lord Wellwood talking about women and when they should golf, when they shouldn't golf if they choose. I was going to do a Scottish accent, but I'm just not feeling it. If they choose to play at times when male golfers are feeding or resting, no one can object.
But at other times, must we say it there in the way it was kind of snarky to add even the must we say it like, do I even need to write this next sentence? It's so just grippingly obvious.
But the long the upshot of this is that's why they created the Ladies Pudding Club is just sort of get rid of them. Yeah. To get them out of the way of the men. But the joke was on the men because this putting green this first miniature golf course in the world is still around and it's still considered one of the finest. It's actually nicknamed the Himalayas because it has all these kind of mountains and hills and Hilux all built into it.
And they really kind of stand out, from what I understand, against like the Scottish seascape. And it's a really revered miniature golf course. But it is exactly what it sounds like. It is a golf course in miniature, like just like you take a classic golf course of the variety that was born in Scotland and you just kind of hit it with a shrink, Ray.
And then you have a genuine bona fide miniature golf course, and that's how the whole thing started out. Yeah, I mean, it's what we would call like a par three today, right? Kind of.
It seems like par three courses are a little different. So this is like yes, I think it does require more than just a putter. Right in a par three would require more than a putter. But there seems to be a few different other kinds of golf courses. Aside from the miniature golf course, there's the par three. The pitch and executive courses all kind of qualify technically as miniature golf courses in different ways.
Yeah, the executive course they got the name because evidently an executive could go play a quick round during lunch. A lot of part three, you might have a like one par five and a couple of par fours. Is that right?
On a par three on an executive course. Oh OK.
Yeah, that's what that's really the only thing from what I can tell that differentiates it from a par three course.
Yeah. It's, it's a golf course. It's a shorter and therefore it doesn't take as long. Yeah.
And it's not like the hole is smaller and the ball is smaller than the clubs are smaller. Like just, just get all your fantasy land there instead. It's just the distance from the tee to the hole is shorter, there's fewer bends and stuff like that. So the actual experience takes less time and less energy and you can just kind of fit it in in a shorter amount of time. And that's the popularity of those things generally. Although putt courses I also saw there, they usually consist of a wedge and iron and a putter.
What you need to play on those. And they're all about the focus on the short game. And as a result, the men and women, just average men and women who play golf can kind of compete pretty evenly because it's all about the short game. It's all about finesse rather than, you know, just sheer power of driving as far as you can on, like a traditional golf course.
Yeah, I mean, I'd love golf. I just don't play anymore. Like, I grew up playing golf and was not good, but I wasn't terrible, uh, for as much as I played. And I still like it. I just don't have the time or the inclination anymore.
But I like the big boy courses with the big par fives. But I also love a fun little par three, like Florida has a lot of these beautiful par threes, including some you can play at night that are all lit up. And that's always a lot of fun to play.
Yeah, I tried to get acquainted with golf as a youngster. My family had, weirdly enough, because this is not like my family at all, had a membership at Heather Downs Country Club. Yeah, well, yeah. And I love the pool because they had like, you know, tons of slush puppies and the best, like nasty hot dogs you can imagine. And there is a pool and all that. I think I told you the story about swim league, the swim team where I was the worst swimmer on it.
Yeah. But I also tried to golf for a couple of summers and it just didn't didn't take it up. But I was back in Toledo like a couple of years ago, I think right before Cleveland Show and I visited the country club.
I just drove by and I looked and the pool is now just like a green field.
It's been filled in like the little the little snack shop has been torn down, like something really bad must have happened there for them to do that to the pool, you know. Yeah, there's the and I didn't get to go here much because it was private. But Hidden Hills was a big neighborhood near my house that had a country club that's still around, isn't it?
Well, the neighborhoods there. But, you know, the neighborhood has seen its better days and the the country club and golf course is completely just shut down and grown over. It's really it looks well, it is an abandoned place that's so cool.
It is kind of cool. And then I had the idea of a movie like a old school type thing where a bunch of old a bunch of like a middle aged man that grew up there, go back and raise some money and try and, like, clean the place up and get it going again.
Yeah. To hilarity. There has to be like a greedy developer that they're battling, right. Oh yeah.
So is that the neighborhood that we got kicked out of when we tried to go shoot like without a license once around that area? I remember the security guard came up, was like, stop what you're doing. I don't remember that.
Yeah. Happened one day. Was it on the Today show or a short gorilla now? It was like when we were shooting shorts. I think I remember that. Yeah. I'm pretty sure that was the one.
Should we take a break already? Sure. OK. All right, we'll get back and we'll talk about where mini golf went from here right after this. This I escaped it originally.
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It would become the largest criminal investigation in Ohio's history. Pike County sheriffs requested state help immediately after they got word.
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That's what I ask, as you should know. All right, so we're back.
Nothing we've talked about right now constitutes miniature golf in the mind of anybody who hears the words miniature golf. Right? True. Like what comes to mind are things like putt putt or goofy golf or windmills or clowns or Happy Gilmore or something like that.
So that all started actually that didn't quite start yet. I was really leading up to that and then I realized we had to keep going with regular miniature golf. One more time because it has to spread to America and it did. And we can actually trace that to to the house of a guy named James Barber, who is an immigrant from England who was familiar with the course, the Ladies Putting Club at St. Andrews. And he was rich enough that he said, you know, I want a miniature golf course built on my estate at Pinehurst, North Carolina.
And he did. He had like an eighteen hole miniature course built right there in his formal gardens. And it's just absolutely beautiful.
It is nice. And this was the first one in the United States and as it's called thisll, due to Stelly d.H you. And supposedly, as legend goes, he when he first saw it, he said, this will do.
I guess he was he was not blown away. Maybe, I don't know. Sounds a little underwhelmed.
He wasn't one of those spoiled brat, you know, robber barons and instead was like, this will do this will do quite nicely. Right. And they just left off the second part, you know.
Yeah, but it's called this'll do. And they started hosting competitions a couple of years later. And I think this is the first time miniature golf was ever used, like those words were ever used to describe the Pinehurst outlook. Was that the newspaper? I guess? Yeah. It's their one claim to fame.
Oh. You know, it's true, though, it's probably true. Yeah, but they were in that account of the competition, they coined the term miniature golf. Up to that point, a lot of people had called it Lilliputian golf. Sure. After the the little people in Gulliver, Gulliver's Travels. And that actually that name actually stuck for quite a while. So we've got James Bahbah, who hosted or built the first miniature golf course in America.
But still, this thing is like directly connected to the Ladies Putting Club of St. Andrews. It's a golf course in miniature. We still haven't quite reached what we would consider miniature golf. And that wouldn't happen until 1926, which turned out to be a really big year for miniature golf in America. It was like there was something in the air in a few different people kind of tapped into it around the same time and it suddenly just took off like a rocket.
Yeah. Two of the guys were some entrepreneurs named Drake, Illinois. I guess Crenn named John Leadbitter.
Another good name and OK, he sounds like he'll he'll shoot you. He'll get better. Yeah.
Yeah, I can see that they did a pretty cool thing, which is they opened up a course on top of a rooftop in the financial district in New York. And that kicked off a trend. There were I think about 100 of those on top of roofs, I guess, is before the big rooftop bar hotel scene. They had golf courses up there.
Yeah, miniature golf courses. Again, those were like miniature golf courses. So, I mean, that was a big deal in New York. Just hundred rooftop golf, miniature golf courses in the 20s. That's a tremendous amount. And I don't think there's a single one left to actually, um, there should be. There's there's so they kind of makes the whole you know, there's one on top of Ponce City Market where the HowStuffWorks offices.
Is there golf up there? There's a miniature golf course up there and it makes a lot more sense now.
Yeah, it's kind of like a whole mini Coney Island up there. Yeah. I mean, I think I've only been up there when we had to work events and the only thing I did was the slide.
I didn't know there was this. Yeah, there's like a you know, you sit in a potato sack and go down the slide, OK? Yeah, yeah I did that. That was fun. Yeah. There's there's a miniature golf course up there.
We'll have to play some time when the whole pandemic passes. Totally.
Uh, and then later that same year, you said it was kind of a boom year for mini golf Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, in Chattanooga, which is a place where I think everybody should go to see Ruby Falls and Rock City.
Oh, yes, it is a tourist trap, but it's actually kind of neat.
I mean, the greatest of the great tourist traps and it still holds up to, yeah, get a pecan log. Oh, my God, they're so good, they are so good there that also supports my theory that Candy was perfected in the 19th century.
Did you get Honeycombs? Sure.
Catalog's logs that I didn't know how long you were from way back then, but I believe it. Yeah, for sure. They're definitely old timey.
So these people, Garnette and Frieda Carter, they built a resort called Fairyland Club, and it was part of that whole sort of interconnected scene there with Rock City and Ruby Falls. And they built a miniature golf course and they said, you know what, if you like golf, maybe you should try mini golf because it doesn't take very long. It'll kind of scratch that itch if you're not able to play a real round.
And that's sort of how they marketed it at first. And they they were the first people, I think, to start adding the obstacles. Right?
They did. Yeah. And they used as they were building, like the inn and the resort complex, they used some of the construction materials like drainpipes and, you know, barrels and things like that. And you build them as hazard's. And then because they had this whole, like, fairy tale theme going up there, they also built Rock City. They were the ones who built Rock City. And that has like a cool little weird, weird, but also very neat fairy tale theme hidden throughout.
Um, they they added that to their miniature golf course. So they had these stationary obstacles and hazards that they added. And then they also added statuary of cute little, you know, Mother Goose type stuff. And they actually called the whole thing Tom Thumb Golf. And Tom Thumb, from what I understand, is the earliest recorded English fairytale character from back in 16, 21. And he was a little tiny guy the size of his father's thumb, which is where he got his name.
So it was a pretty appropriate name. They must have really, like, been pretty pleased with themselves when they decided to call it Tom Thumb golf, because it really it checked all the boxes.
Yeah. And we should mention, too, we keep saying Rock City. And if you're not from the Southeast, you might think it's just some redneck area with a bunch of rocks. It's actually a very sweet, natural wonder.
Its caves that you walk through caves, it's huge boulders being held up by much, much smaller boulders. Yeah, it's really neat way for probably tens of thousands of years that you walk under. There's like, yeah, there's little cave areas that you kind of duck into and they have little fairy tale scenes with fluorescent deg or flourescent. Yeah. It gets kind of deglaze like glow in the dark, weird like gnomes in fairy tale scenes. Like that's the weird part.
It's like if Carlsbad Caverns had, you know, some corny fairy theme. Mm hmm.
And then Ruby Falls is really neat too. Yeah. It's a very cool, like natural attraction that they've done a good job of, like underground water, making it easy to to make your way to. But yeah, it's the whole thing is definitely worth going through. And then of course they have the very famous like see Rock City Burnside's that everybody's afraid of. And that was that was Garnick Carter who painted one man or paid one man to go around and offered to give a fresh coat of paint to Barnes all throughout the Southeast.
It's great in exchange for letting them paint see Rock City on the side. Yeah, it's if you've ever driven around the North Carolina, South Carolina area and south of the border, you know, I'm talking about south of the Mason-Dixon line now south of the border is the name of this sort of highway tourist trap that. So, no, I haven't heard of that. Yeah, it's it's it's the same deal.
I think it's I want to say it's North Carolina, but it's basically like a glorified rest stop that has a Mexican theme, uh, where you can go like, I don't know, see mariachi band and eat good food and buy cheap tchotchkes, the only mariachi band in all of North Carolina.
But what made me think about it, it might be, was that they had the same thing for like hundreds of miles in any direction for south of the border and Rock City. They're very famous for these billboards that tell you like, oh, it's coming. You're getting closer, you're getting closer.
That's really strange that I've never heard of that then. Yeah, south of the border, checkpoints must not have been paying attention. So. So the car is built like this Tom Thumb golf course. And again, originally they just did. This is kind of an amenity at their fairyland in in Fairyland Club, but it was such a smash hit and Garnet Carter was such a like born businessman that they they they were like, I think there might be something to this.
And they saw either they saw it out or he saw them. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but there is another guy who really factors bigly into this whole story. But he's very. Frequently overlooked, and his name is Thomas MacCulloch, Fairbairn McCulloh Fairburn, yeah, and he invented a really cheap and easy technique for creating artificial putting greens that could be used for miniature golf courses.
Yeah, it was a crush. Cottonseed hols, oil, your diet green. And they would come in these big rolls and you just roll it over this foundation of sand and boom. You've got an easy way basically to sort of franchise these things with these prefab kits that they they had. And people loved it because it was, you know, when it was they called it midget golf for a little while, not a term we would use today, but it's what they called it in the 1920s.
Right. And this factors in to a lot of stuff. We've been talking about the 1920s lately, just these weird fads that would pop up in Tom-Tom. Golf was one of them.
It was in part of the reason that it got out from Lookout Mountain is because the Carters and Fairburn kind of joined forces and used his technique for making these greens very cheaply and used. They're kind of like a touch of whimsy, packaged it together and started selling it prepackaged sets or prefabricated sets that could be franchised out to anybody who wanted to start their own Tom Thumb golf course. And so they spread really, really quickly. And like you're seeing like the 20s, they were just looking for whatever craze could come along, crossword puzzles, dance marathons, flagpole sitting.
Well, apparently, miniature golf was the king of them all as far as the 20s crazes went.
Yeah, this is a pretty startling statistic.
In August of nineteen thirty, the Commerce Department said that there were and apparently this could be low by even as much as half twenty five thousand twenty five thousand mini golf courses in the US, half of which were built in that previous six or eight months of the year.
Yeah, that's a boom right there. Can you imagine like an eight months, like 12 to fifteen thousand mini golf courses being built in the U.S.? It's crazy.
I can just imagine Garnett and Frieda Carter just rolling around on a bed of money in their suite at the ferry landing.
Yeah, and I mean, in a legit, like, job boosting market. Yeah, no.
Well, that's that's another thing, too, right? I mean, like there was a flagpole sitting, didn't make the transition into the depression and dance marathons did, but they get kind of grim, apparently miniature golf. And I've seen both. But but miniature golf seems to have made the transition from 20s crazy to, you know, kind of national pastime that that made sense in the Depression because you could take your whole family out to play miniature golf for pretty cheap it was nickel or something.
That was a big attraction. And then also, if you were like a golf junky, but all of a sudden you didn't have the money to afford greens fees any longer. At the very least, you could go play some miniature golf somewhere. So it kind of scratch that itch to a certain a certain degree. So there was like a lot of popularity that even after the craze kind of crested and waned a little bit, it's still carried on pretty, pretty thoroughly through the nineteen thirties.
And as a matter of fact, took some for some people were like Tom Thumb golf, the official franchise, Tom Thumb Golf. It's a little rich for my blood. What else you got for me.
Yeah. Like why can't we just do this.
Well yeah exactly. Local entrepreneurs were like I got exactly the thing buddy you want to play has half priced miniature golf. Yeah. Come on.
It's like I've got a bunch of PVC pipe laying around. Yeah. Or yeah.
So basically whatever found objects you could find you could, you could come across. We're called rinky dink miniature golf courses that were basically knock off tom thumb courses that used whatever found objects. The person who built it had lying around. Yeah.
New York had about 150 of them. Washington DC had thirty.
One of those is still around the East Potomac Park course. Yeah. And yeah, the whole family could get involved. And I think one of the the keys then and now to many golf being popular and then putt putt, which we'll see here in a minute, is that you don't even have to like golf at all.
You can hate golf and still go do putt putt and probably have a good time.
Yeah, as long as you don't take it too seriously, don't take it too seriously.
Please don't just relax. Don't be that guy. That's what it's for. You want to take a break and then talk putt putt? Yes. OK, let's do that. Everybody.
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That's what my desk has. Country should know better. Are we there?
Who, me are we there yet? But I thought you said, are you there? I'm like, Yeah, I'm here.
We are there, Chuck, because let me set the set the table here. You ready? Yes, I'm hungry. America got a little burned out on miniature golf, especially the Tom Thumb and rinky dink varieties. And so a lot of it died out, but some remained, some hopped along. Some are still around today, actually. And by the 1950s, there was a guy who was playing at one of these courses in Fayetteville, North Carolina, which remember is the home of miniature golf in the United States.
North Carolina is. And he happened to have just gotten a prescription from his doctor saying you're about to have a nervous breakdown. I prescribe you a month's rest from work. And this guy, Don Clayton, said can do. And he started playing miniature golf, but he wasn't quite satisfied with it.
Yeah, I imagine if you were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, then Tom Thumb, golf is a nice salve for that kind of kind of experience. Sure. If if you're charmed by all the whimsical stuff and you don't take it too seriously.
Right. From what I understand, though, Don Clayton was like this whimsy sucks. We need something better than this. And I think I'm just the person to build it.
So he had the idea to to basically make miniature golf, but without all the garbage, no clowns mouths, no windmills and have a little like a little skill involved. Like you can go out there and if you're like a good putter you can actually compete and have a good time. And it's still for fun, but it's just not a silly kids game anymore.
Yeah, like anybody who's been to an actual putt putt course can tell you that it's I mean, there's a lot of obstacles and it's interesting and fun and there's some neat stuff, but it it just does not have all of like the the moving bells and whistles that you're going to see, unlike other kinds of miniature golf, like goofy golf, like the obstacles are usually just like some blocks in the way and stuff like that.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Or light around or bank elevated.
Elevated from buses or things like that or like a labyrinth, you know, built into it. It's not like a clown's mouth or anything like that, which is kind of like the go to description for goofy golf isn't it really. Yeah.
And I think like the craziest thing you'll see on a putt putt course is where you those that are like two levels and you can hit it into three different holes at the top and you're like you kind of take a little bit of a gamble as to where it's going to come out on the bottom.
Sure. It'll either come out close to the hole so you can get that part to you. And I think they're all parties on a real putt putt course. Right.
Or it'll spit you out way, far away. But you still have a chance to hit that long. But for the for the to make sure there's always a chance for you, a second chance at putt putt.
I think that was the motto. So yeah. But so this was done. Clayton's vision, he was like, I want to make this a little less goofy. I want to make it a little more interesting and skillfull.
Less goofy, more. Dolfi Yeah. Yeah. Chuck man he just set up from his grave going, I wish I thought of that as he did. Yeah. He died in 1996, OK, but he had a good run. I mean, this is 1954, which was a 28 year old man that he decided to try this. So he went to his dad and said, hey, I've got this, I got this idea rather than basically as a New York Times obituary put it, rather than basically basically making a a human sized pinball machine for golf.
We're going to make this a little more interesting. How about we cobble together fifty two hundred bucks and we're going to build our own little miniature golf course. And he did. And like a shaded little lot and with that fifty two hundred dollars they open for business. And within twenty nine days he and his father had made 100 percent of their investment back. And Don Clayton said, I think there might be something to this whole thing. Yeah.
So he he was initially going to college.
He went to the bank to open a business account and he had to fill out the paperwork and he was going to call it the shady Vail Golf Course.
But yeah, this is as the story goes, he didn't know how to spell Vail, I guess, if it was vey ill or valley. So he just. Said a putt putt and wrote down putt, but it wasn't something he brainstormed, apparently it was just sort of on a whim. Yeah, and it's a name that really, really stuck.
It's kind of brilliant in its simplicity, I think, divine inspiration, it almost feels like that it just kind of happened on a whim. That's absolutely great. But he started to kind of build the whole thing into like this enormous industry pretty quickly because he was right. You know, there's I did the math. If they made their fifty two hundred dollars back in twenty nine days, that means that over that month they had twenty thousand eight hundred paying customers quarter a game with 25 cents a game.
Yeah, that's a lot. And so when they really got together and started like they he was right, he was on to something and it started to take off pretty quickly. And apparently at its peak, um, when you and I were going to putt putt, they were they had something like 256 courses throughout the world, mostly in the US and Canada, but also in Australia and South Africa and New Zealand. And it was it was definitely a thing.
Like you said, all of the holes were part twos, right?
Yeah. And this was just to be clear. Fifty six doesn't sound like a lot compared to the 50000 that they had in the nineteen thirties, but this was his his own putt putt golf and games franchise. Right. There was plenty more putt putt going on in the United States than that.
Right. Right, right. Yeah. Like knock off putt putt. Right. Yeah.
Like the one that's stone out park wasn't a putt putt golf in games, it was just putt putt putt.
It was, it was great. It's called tap tap. They also had trail skate across from the putt putt which was a roller skating trail through the woods. What.
Yeah, it was like this two mile paved, you know, just basically like a big paved sidewalk through the woods and they rented roller skates and you just skate through the woods was really cool.
Man, that's awesome. Country folk just have some of the best ideas for businesses, you know what I mean?
I didn't think of us as country folk, but I guess it kind of was a roller skating through the woods. I guess it is.
That's like Dolly Parton level country. So, yeah, they're all part twos. And it is it is tough. It's challenging. Apparently in the 65 year history of putt putt, there have only been three perfect games where you walk away with a score of eighteen, which is that's that's really tough to do.
I mean, like of the millions and millions of games of putt putt that people have played, only three people have ever, ever gotten a perfect game, which kind of shows you how deceptively hard. Yeah, putt putt course courses. You know, like each one of those each one of those courses is made of I think they have something like one hundred and eight trademarked holes. Right. Like Layne's I think is what they're called a miniature golf where you can just kind of take them and reconfigure them into different different configurations.
But they have one hundred and eight total. And I guess each one of them is very, very difficult. I don't ever remember getting a perfect game or even imagining that I was going to get a perfect game.
No, you get a two or three holes in one and that's a that's a good day. For sure. So 18, there's actually a short, I think seven and a half minute Grantland documentary on the most recent perfect putt putt game by a guy named Rick Baird, who had his perfect game in 2011.
Can you imagine the tension on whole 18?
They capture it really well in this in this documentary. It's really well done. They've got like like a cartoon version of him putting and he's got like cartoon sweat tears running down his face. Oh, man, I'm really so nervous. Yeah, it was very nervous. And he did it. And he's actually a miniature golf pro in his spare time, which we'll talk about later. But there's so he's from Charlotte. Don Clayton was from Fayetteville, and then Joseph Barber was from Pinehurst.
So it seems pretty clear that North Carolina is the ancestral home of miniature golf for at least the spiritual home of miniature golf in the world. Frankly, I'm just going to say it in the world.
Yeah. And if you're looking for the creators of the kind of mechanized courses, you can go to 1955 and Scranton, P.A. with Ralph and ALOMA. Previous to this, you know, you had the putt putt, which just had the sort of regular obstacles. You had the Tom Thumb, which had kind of more outrageous whimsy, but still things weren't moving. And these are the guys that brought in these rotating windmill blades or ramps that move back and forth.
And they really kind of kick that to the next level. And they you know, they went into business big time. They started mass producing these things like the actual components and sold a ton of them all over the world.
Yeah, I think like 5000 courses. Yeah. Which is pretty impressive. They're the ones who came up with what we think of now is like miniature golf and goofy golf with the moving stuff. Not a fan. The clown mouth. Don't forget the clown mouth that opens and closes or you know, like you say, a windmill. So it's kind of interesting that Don Clayton brought miniature golf back to its roots of being a lot more like regular golf.
And then very shortly after that, branched off the Lomas who brought it back to there, that Tom Thumb roots. So that whole thing, the evolution of miniature golf happened twice in just the same way. And then. Interesting.
Yeah. And it also came back full circle in the 90s with a return to sort of that original miniature golf, because real golfers, people like Jack Nicklaus started to get involved.
I'm sure there were dollar signs, you know, in his eyes.
Sure. But he also probably loved it.
I don't want to be cynical, but I'm sure he made some money. But they have competitions, you know, their actual prized purses. There is a US pro mini golf association. They have their own little U.S. Open. I don't think they call it the little U.S. Open. They should. They totally should. There's the World Mini Golf Sports Federation in Germany and they sort of are the body that standardizes the obstacles and stuff like that on.
Yeah, I guess what you can have and what you can't have. Yeah. Which is kind of funny when you think about it.
It is, but it's a pretty interesting list. You're like, oh that be tough. Oh that's hard. The sloped circle with a V obstacle. Yeah. That's just plain difficult. And I think they should call it the Teeny-Weeny US Open.
Welcome back to the Teeny-Weeny Open.
I was looking at the US Pro Mini Golf Association's website and there was a Tennessee state open. And man, the picture that they have of that course, it looks serious, dude. Yeah. So, like, if you if you go to papa and you always were like, I love this, this is so challenging. I can score like a sixteen somewhere up, I guess sixteen. I just don't play the last two holes when I'm on a streak, you know, like a twenty or twenty two or something like that.
You might actually have fun being a miniature golf pro and there are some serious courses out there for you to play that are a couple of notches above your average putt putt course. I'd like to play one of those. I don't know if I would have I'd make a run club. Should we talk about some of these famous courses?
Yeah. So from what I can tell, the United States is the home of miniature golf. It's the capitals of miniature golf. I don't believe there's any country like I was looking. I was like maybe Thailand is like even more into it than the United States. I don't think so. I think the United States is the place that has the most miniature golf courses and has probably the most paying customers for miniature golf courses.
I could see Japan. I could to there around the golf or anything like that. Yeah, I didn't see anything like it. So the United States is the home of miniature golf in the world capital of miniature golf then is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Yeah, ironic that it's not North Carolina, but it's not everybody. I'm sorry.
Yeah. I mean, Myrtle Beach is sort of one of those classic old school beach towns that has all of the go karts and the bumper boats and the mini golf. And they have one called Molton Mountain. That's pretty cool.
Like you should go check out pictures of some of these places. There are a lot of fun that that has a volcano, a working volcano that erupts every half hour. And it's sort of an inside and out thing, like I think it's both indoors and outdoors, right?
It is. Yeah. It's a pretty it's a pretty great one. And the whole volcano thing, they're not the only one that's not so Myrtle Beach. And there's another one called Hawaiian Rumball that also has a functioning volcano, too. And in fact, on Highway 17, there's a 30 mile stretch of it that goes through Myrtle Beach where there's 50 or 50 miniature golf courses in a 30 mile stretch through Myrtle.
And I'm sure a lot of opinions on which ones are good and which ones think, yeah, there's one I want to go to in Palantine, Illinois. I think I said a couple of these from Travel and Leisure, maybe this one's called Algorithm ACRS, Al Ahram, ACRS. It's in Palatine, Illinois, Illinois. And it's a funeral home. Like for real in real life. Yeah.
Like, you know, they they take care of dead bodies. And you can also play nine holes on their death themed course in the basement.
In the basement. First of all, the basement of a funeral home is just creepy on its own. Yeah, but a death themed miniature golf course in a funeral home that actually functions, that's that's just downright interesting. Yeah.
There's this one in Las Vegas to the KISS themed one, which I checked out on YouTube. I would I would play this even though it goes against two things for me, which is not into indoor miniature golf. I really would like to be outside.
And I think kiss sucks. Why I thought you're a Kiss fan.
No. Oh, man. I thought you were a Kiss fan now, not a Kiss fan.
Never. I mean, you know, I get it. And I think it's kind of fun and funny. Sure. But I never thought Kiss was like it played good rock and roll songs. Really? That's very surprising. I know Kiss fans are going to be so mad at me for saying their music is not good. But I mean, there's a reason they they dressed up and spit blood and stuff.
So there's a but it's still it'd be worth playing. I agree. No, it looked the one that I would actually travel to go play is called parking. It's in Lincolnshire, Illinois. So I probably go there and then I dip down or dip up. I'm not sure to Palantine to play algo makers, OK, but parking is like exactly what it is. It's the pinnacle of a miniature golf course. If you ask me, it's got it all.
It's difficult and it has all of the amazing obstacles and weird traps and functioning problems to figure out that that a miniature golf course should have it look pretty cool.
I mean, I'm a putt putt guy, but I was checking out pictures and stuff. I would I would go I would go to parking with you for sure. OK, we'll go.
It's going to be a summer trip in twenty twenty two or three. Fantastic. And then if you want to play. So I think Chuck this one would be up your alley. It's called Golf Gardens and Cat on Catalina Island in SoCal. Yeah, right up my alley. This one is like considered the hardest miniature golf course in the United States, not just because it's difficultly laid out, but also because it's been played so much that it's got all sorts of weird notches and stuff that's not supposed to be there.
Yeah. In the playing surface. So that makes it all the more difficult, which is kind of neat. I love that. And then if you want to go retro, I think that one's been around a while. You can go down to Florida and they have a historic mini golf trail that takes you from a miniature golf course, a miniature golf course, all of which have been around for at least 50 years.
Amazing. And if you like weird old stuff that's not in use anymore, look up abandoned miniature golf courses. That's a fun thing to do. And since I said it's a fun thing to do everybody, that means it's time for the listener mail. All right, I'm going to call this dad male, got this very sweet email. I love it when the families listen, you know, I'm sure especially when they're not. I mean, I like families with young kids that listen.
But I also like it when it's adults and then older parents that are listening.
Right. Hey, guys, I hope you're hanging in there. These are such tricky times. I know you're I'm not the only listener that turns to your show for a distraction or a soundtrack to washing dishes or background noise while trying to run or do something that feels normal during these abnormal times. A couple of years ago, my now husband and I took a road trip with my parents to stay with my now in-laws. As we pulled out of the driveway, we put on stuff you should know and spent the entire journey sharing your catalog with them and they were immediately hooked.
My parents continue to love your podcast, but every time my dad refers to it, he mixes up the name. I love this stuff. So far he's called you guys.
You should know your stuff. You ought to know. Yeah. Things you need to know and stuff.
Guys stuff. Guys, is that's a good nickname. Lately he's just been referring to you as the guy's podcast, which is close enough for me. Eventually we're just going to get to the.
Yeah, thanks for all the amazing work and the thoughtful approach you have to podcasting. So grateful to have multiple episodes to listen to every week. That is for Marybeth. And she says, P.S., I should add that the episode on fractals is now infamously nap inducing in my family, but I blame the long stretch of highway on that.
Thank you. That was very kind of you. And I say really pull it out at the end there was a Marybeth. Yep. Well, if you want to be like Marybeth and get in touch with us, we would appreciate that. Right now you can send it to us via email. That's the best way to reach us at Stuff podcast and I heart radio dot com.
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